Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Titus Andronicus (TI-tuhs an-DRON-ih-kuhs), a noble Roman soldier who has dedicated his life and lost twenty-one of his twenty-five sons in the service of the state. He is not an entirely coherent or consistent character, especially in the first act of the play. In that act, he disdains ambition, offers his support to Saturninus, and mourns the death of the sons whose bodies he brings home from the wars; in the same act, he also sets off a chain of slaughters as he sacrifices the eldest son of the captured Tamora, queen of the Goths, on the tomb of his own sons; slays Mutius, one of his four surviving sons, for daring to cross his father’s will; and defends Bassianus’ right to Lavinia’s hand. After this day, a malignant fate seems to pursue Titus, gradually destroying his sanity. He sees his daughter mutilated and dishonored; his sons falsely condemned for the murder of her husband and eventually executed, in spite of his sacrifice of his hand to save them; and, finally, his one remaining son, Lucius, banished for defending his brothers. His mind turns entirely to the horrors inflicted on him and his daughter. Conceiving a grotesque and dreadful vengeance against his tormenters, Tamora and her sons, he plans a Thyestean banquet for the queen before he kills her and Lavinia.
Aaron (AYR-uhn), the Moor,...
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Often referred to as the Moor, he is a darkskinned adventurer and mercenary soldier who fought with the Goths against Rome. He is Tamora's lover, and one of the captives Titus leads into Rome in I.i. Aaron is also the chief villain of the play. As a dramatic character, he has a richly complex and ambiguous appeal.
On the one hand, he is the embodiment of evil. At II.iii.39, he tells Tamora, "Blood and revenge are hammering in my head." Yet we are not shown or told of any specific injury or injustice that he has suffered from the Andronici—except, in the course of war, to be defeated and captured. He seems inclined to villainy by his very nature: he is evil, and he does evil. He shows no pity or remorse. He proudly acknowledges that he has done "a thousand dreadful things" and regrets that he "cannot do ten thousand more" (V.i.124, 144). Deeply cynical, he scorns honest men. He has no moral code, and he mocks those who do.
On the other hand, he is a very engaging figure. His self-confidence is expressed nonchalantly, so that the audience is attracted rather than put of by his self-assurance. He is generally cheerful and open in his soliloquies and when he addresses the audience directly. It is as if he were coaxing us into sharing his sardonic perspective on events. His playfulness and sheer vitality sometimes put the audience at risk of forgetting the horrors he has brought about.
Aaron keeps the audience informed of his schemes...
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Andronicus (Marcus Andronicus)
Unlike his brother Titus, he is a tribune, not a soldier. He represents the voice of the Roman people, or at least some faction of the populace, when he nominates his brother for emperor early in Act I. Overall, he is presented as a reasonable, unheroic man, who frequently attempts to persuade his more strong-willed brother to moderate his behavior. Marcus is, however, as committed to family honor as Titus. He often takes on the role of explaining or defending the conduct of the Andronici. But there is some question about whether, in his extended speeches to the other tribunes at the close of the tragedy (V.iii.67-95, 119-36), he may be trying to shift the blame from his family onto others.
As many commentators have noted, Marcus is often long-winded. His lengthy speech when he comes upon the raped and mutilated Lavinia in the forest has been the subject of a great deal of debate and commentary. Full of classical allusions and in a mood that can be described as aloof or emotionless, this speech is difficult for modern readers or audiences, who might think Marcus ought to be searching for a physician to bind up Lavinia's wounds instead of delivering a nostalgic oration. It has been suggested that Marcus uses elevated, formal language here to create an aura of tragedy around his disfigured niece. He is, in effect, memorializing her, emphasizing who she was rather than what she has become. He clearly regards her with pity and compassion, and continues to...
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Andronicus (Titus Andronicus)
A proud veteran of forty years' of military campaigns against the enemies of Rome, he is a popular hero. At the beginning of Act I, he is the people's choice to be their next emperor. But Titus is a highly contradictory figure. By the close of that act, he has betrayed his integrity through false pride, harsh inflexibility, and faulty judgment. On the; other hand, by the end of Act III, he has suffered more unspeakable wrongs than "any living man could bear" (V.iii. 127). Pursuing his revenge against those who have violated his daughter, murdered his son-in-law, and executed his sons, Titus becomes steeped in blood. It's questionable, however, whether he ever reflects on his own role in turning Rome into ''a wilderness of tigers'' (III.i.54).
Titus's first error is to agree to the ritual murder of Alarbus. He stubbornly refuses to be persuaded by either the logic or the emotionalism of Tamora's appeal on behalf of her son. He chooses rigid adherence to Roman tradition—a sacrifice to appease the spirits of dead warriors—rather than the nobler virtue of mercy. Next he rejects the opportunity to become emperor. Titus describes himself as an old man, weary and exhausted. He predicts that if he were to assume office one day, he might have to resign it the next. He throws his political support behind the candidacy of Saturninus, failing to recognize how disastrous this choice will be for Rome. Without consulting his daughter Lavinia, he agrees to...
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As queen of the Goths, a people who have been at war with Rome for many years, she is an enemy of Rome. As a captive led through the streets of the capital, she suffers public humiliation. Tamora hates Titus and his sons even before her own son Alarbus is brutally killed as a sacrifice to the dead Andronici. Alarbus's death does, however, set in motion her schemes for revenge. It may also be seen as some justification for what she does. But she doesn't limit her vengefulness to Titus and his sons. She allows her own sons Demetrius and Chiron to rape Lavinia, refusing to be swayed by Lavinia's appeals to her womanly feelings. Tamora says she can be as pitiless as Titus when he remained unmoved by her tears and pleas on behalf of Alarbus.
Tamora's appeal to Titus in I.i is heartfelt and poignant. She speaks to him as one loving parent to another. She reminds him that Alarbus and his brothers fought valiantly ''in their country' s cause'' just as Titus's sons did, and to be "slaughtered in the streets" is a fate no soldier deserves (I.i.113, 112). This speech, which concludes by pointing out that mercy is the truest sign of a noble nature, demonstrates a different Tamora than is usually evident. Or perhaps she is being manipulative here. Another speech (II.iii. 10-29) provides a glimpse of her sensitivity to the natural world. Tamora seems at home in the forest, attuned to the cheerful and soothing sounds of Nature. She is, of course, suggesting in this...
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He is a nobleman and tribune who acts first as a messenger for Saturninus and then as a supporter of Lucius in the play's final scene. In IV.iv, Aemilius reports to the emperor that the Goths, under the leadership of Lucius, are marching on Rome. Saturninus asks him to take a message to Lucius proposing a peaceful meeting at Titus's house. He does so in V.i. Aemilius arrives for the feast at Titus's house in the company of Saturninus and Tamora, but at the close of the play, with Saturninus dead, he proposes that Lucius be the next emperor, noting that Lucius appears to be the choice of Rome's citizens.
He is a Goth, the oldest of Tamora's three sons. In I.i, Titus orders that Alarbus be sacrificed so that the spirits of Titus's sons who were killed in the war against the Goths will rest in peace and honor. Tamora pleads with Titus to spare her son's life, but Alarbus is killed. Thereafter Tamora is obsessed with avenging his death.
He and Saturninus are the' sons of the late emperor of Rome, and the play opens with Bassianus challenging his older brother's right to succeed to the throne. Later in the first scene he challenges Titus's decision to disregard Bassianus's betrothal to Lavinia. Yet he is more gracious than defiant in both of these instances. And, unlike most of the other characters in this play, he bears no grudge against the person who wronged him. Indeed, he...
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